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  • A few months back, the Hunter Gather in Hubin Dao transformed from a grocery-store-with-a-restaurant to a restaurant-with-a-little-grocery-section-and-cooking-classes. Good call!

    Sadly, the DIY peanut butter machines disappeared (R.I.P.). Almost everything else is great news though. The Asian fusion dishes with organic ingredients have more flavor and color than ever, and between the curries, pickled vegetables, ma la, Bibimbap elements, noodles, salads, and grilled meats, there's probably something for everyone who is trying to eat better. That said, some dishes seem more inspired than others. A pumpkin pasta was just meh.

    Their lunch set is 98rmb and includes a starter like cauliflower soup, a main, and a drink like coffee or tea. Considering the quality, that's a solid deal and more than filling. Maybe order the dressing on the side if you're counting calories though. Overall, for around the same price or slightly more than Sproutworks down the street, the food is way more robust. It's the Lexus to their dependable Camry. Shout out to the farmers. Bonus: The frozen yogurt is worth a trip alone.

     

    ***

     

    Basically: Quick-serve organic restaurant serving bright Asian fusion dishes in the form of bowls, salads, and noodles. High-quality ingredients and lots of flavor. Avg: ~ 100rmb per person. Also has some groceries, cooking classes, and [sometimes] frozen yogurt.

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  • Here’s the low-down on the latest action-

    The Beef: Owned by the Popolo group, Gemma maintains the same standards held to the group. Italian staples and standard fare such as cold cuts, pizzas, pastas, mains – and let's not forget the gelato are all featured on the menu. Can’t complain about the food, although the price point is slightly higher than some of its sister restaurants (Bar Centrale, Alimentari). Pizza is a standout, with a thin and chewy yet still crispy crust. The other staples are solid but did not feel particularly unique or inspired. Perhaps in line with the group philosophy of just doing simple things decently well, which seems to be a concept that works.

    The restaurant itself is more grown-up than its other sibling restaurants, with darker wood and a dimmer setting, giving it more of an intimate feel. There is also semi-outdoor seating where you can get the best of both worlds – covered roof but still open air – while sipping on an ice cold Spritz. There is also a bar upstairs, which will open shop if there is a bigger party upstairs.

     The best part of this whole set-up however, is Buco – the resident gelato store, which feels like artisanal gelato made with down-to-earth natural ingredients. They do also takeaway by the pint if you just want to pick one up to go.

    The Gang: More geared towards laowai, suitable for both smaller groups (1st floor) and larger parties (2nd floor).

    The Damage: Dinner for 2 @ 600rmb, including drinks.

    The Down n’ Dirty: On the 2nd floor, pretty immaculate.

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  • Located on the corner of Jiaozhou Road and Wuding Road, Alimentari & Degusteria is probably the go to stop for a lot of Westerners in Shanghai to get their imported pantry foods, and if time allows, have a seat to enjoy some fresh cold-cuts and cheese with some beer, or just dive into their all-day breakfasts choices. They are well-stocked in everything from your favourite wines, to your longed-after Italian pasta sauces. The large panel windows facing street-side views makes one reminiscent of the numerous street-side cafes you’d see in France or Italy, as it offers up a nice patio seating for chit-chat or simply people-watching.  

    In the area and looking for a place to get some work done, I decided to finally come check this place out. The place is fairly empty on a weekday afternoon, with a couple of people here and there on their laptops. Walking in, you are greeted with a large display of fresh cut gourmet meat, cheese displays, various olives, alongside rows of spirits, beers, or juice drinks. It is a feast on the eyes just as it is a feast it will be on the stomach. The staff are also super helpful and friendly here. They were happy to give me recommendations when I asked. Looking for some nibbles, I ordered some parmesan cheese, black peppered beef, salami, with some whole wheat bread and found a nice spot by the windows to sit. Other menu options such as paninis or sandwiches ends sales around 6pm.

    The cold cuts and cheese were absolutely delish and super fresh. Definitely ranks among the top cold cut platters I’ve had in the past, plus the price here is surprisingly affordable as my platter only came out to be around 70rmb. 250kg is the minimum amount you’re allowed to get for each platter option. In addition, there are also set platter choices available that might be better to get in a group. Ciders and ales are always ready on the side as well if you need some pick-me-ups while working or chatting here. The place started to fill up as people got out of work.  

    Overall, I loved everything about this place, from the food to the vibe. It definitely lived up to its hype and I look forward to coming back or checking out its other branches around town.

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  • Ochobo used to be located in the El Willy building on Donghu Road. It has now reopened in a small renovated building on Tai Yuan Rd. This is a high-end Japanese set menu joint where most of the seats are at the bar and you won’t be disappointed. You will leave with a full belly of delicious food but a significantly lighter wallet.

    Ochobo is only one floor of this tiny building. The ground floor is a sister restaurant specializing in grilled meats. This is not a heavily trafficked area, but just around the corner is the severely underrated tequila bar Pocho. Pocho makes some of the best drinks in Shanghai without squeezing your wallet dry.

    While the space is small, the menu seemed to cover the main spectrum of Japanese cuisine from sashimi to shabu shabu to grilled meats and tempura. The stand outs were the sea urchin tempura and melt in your mouth beef in a small shabu shabu hotpot.

    Two in our party aren’t keen beef eaters, and the staff happily switched the beef dish to lobster. The lobsters were pretty plain, but that’s expected when you order off menu at a place with only one set menu.

    Everything else was really, really good. But the damage is heavy at 880 rmb per person without drinks. Side note, they only charged 100 rmb for corkage which helps in this type of place.

     

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  • I decided to pay a visit to Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice to see if the chicken rice truly lived up to its name. Located on Jiaozhou Road, the store has a very appealing traditional Chinese styled storefront, with a hint of Singaporean ceramic décor. The store is pretty tiny, luckily, there is also a second floor up a flight of wooden stairs that may be able to accompany slightly larger groups.

    Arriving on a weekday evening, the place was not that packed, and we were able to get a good comfy spot for two upstairs. Colourful posters line up the red-painted walls of the restaurant, giving it an interesting Chinese vintage vibe. We were seated next to an incredibly loud group; the store for some reason, didn’t have any music on to help drown out the chatter either, so we ended up having to practically shout to be heard. That’s just Chinese-styled dining I guess. The unpleasant noise aside, the overall atmosphere was good.

    Unlikely many other Hainanese chicken rice places, this place had no set chicken rice meal (with set portions of chicken, rice, and veggies), so you had to order everything separately, which is a bit annoying, and makes this place a bit pricier than other similar joints. You can order the chicken by the half (78rmb) or by the quarter (48 or 58 rmb), and rice made with chicken oil was 9 rmb (a rip-off for rice). They also had no plain rice available, so my vegetarian friend had to settle for something else to go with her meal. Up first, we had the cold dish appetizer, tofu with preserved eggs, which tasted amazing sprinkled with some soy and hot sauce flavouring. The kai-lan mixed seafood veggies and bean curd water spinach were also pleasant tasting though they were definitely made with a touch of Shanghainese flavours as there were a distinct sweetness to the taste. My favourite part of the meal was the kaya (coconut jam) toast dessert, which tasted just as good if not even better than the ones I’ve had in Singapore. Compared to everything else we’ve gotten, the chicken rice itself was a bit underwhelming to be frank. It was not bad, but it certainly wasn’t anything spectacular either, as its name suggests, and I certainly could have gotten the same thing elsewhere for half the price.  

    Overall price is 100rmb/person.

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  • I've tried a few times to get on the Beef & Liberty train when it comes to their burgers. My first time eating there was on a Monday, and it was BOGO night for burgers, but I was a little underwhelmed by my burger. It was fine...but not really memorable. 

    "Maybe it was an off-night", I thought to myself, so I tried again on a Monday a few months later, it was the same thing again. 

    "Well your problem is obviously that you're going on Monday nights, when they're slammed for those BOGO burgers" my friend said, in response to my griping about the underwhelming burger. 

    In an effort to address this possibility, I made a THIRD trip to Beef & Liberty on a recent weekday afternoon, when the restaurant was essentially empty and the kitchen would ostensibly be able to focus completely on my burger. 

    It was only then that I was able to conclude that my burger experience from the very first time had been thoroughly representative; Beef & Liberty burgers just don't taste very good. The main issue is that there's just no seasoning on the patty whatsoever. I don't care how high quality your meat is, or whether you've got the perfect blend of imported chuck, short rib and brisket or whatever...if you aren't putting adequate salt and pepper on your burger patty, then it's missing something. Sometimes a salty pickle or good bacon can replace the need for salt on the patty, but that wasn't happening here ether. 

    Aside from the lack of seasoning, there was also no sear on the outside of the burger, so no lovely maillard reaction savory goodness. It seemed like the burger hadn't been cooked on an adequately high-heat source to create a good sear, resulting in very little surface texture. It was just a poorly seasoned and poorly cooked burger patty - no way around it. Extremely disappointing for a 100 RMB burger. 

    The shoestring fries that accompanied the burger were completely unseasoned as well. What does Beef & Liberty have against salt? 

    So why the three stars, you may ask, and not lower? 

    Because after the second visit, I learned to hedge my bets, and so on this third trip we also ordered a pulled pork sandwich, and that was pretty delicious. Savory, juicy, slightly tangy with good crisp from the slaw on the side - exactly what a pulled pork sandwich should be. The side salad I ordered with it was also good. It seems the kitchen's disillusionment about appropriate seasoning levels only manifests itself in the burgers...

    Besides this, the banoffee milkshake was a delicious indulgence, the fancy ketchup is tasty, the drinks were fine, and the terrace environment is really nice - quite the highlight. I would go back to enjoy these things, but not those overhyped burgers. There are many better options around town if you feel like spending that much money on a hamburger. 

    Lunch sets were slightly over 100 each. 

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  • D.O.C sits on a quiet street of Dagu with a nice outdoor sitting area, which makes it wonderful for enjoying quality Italian food. The lighting and environment just make you feel comfortable and chill.

    We went during a Sunday afternoon and started with a platter. Everything was delicious and I especially loved the olives and mushrooms. They had happy hour for a selection of drinks that day, which was perfect and the Aperol spritz was tasty. Pizza were delicious with a nice and thin dough, but the greens are very little and we were expecting a bigger size because of its price. Tiramisu was moist and delicious. I’ve tried tiramisu in other restaurants and DOC definitely is on top of the list.

    The service was great and the manager was very welcoming. He was very nice to talk to and gave us some recommendations on dishes. If anything I would say it’s on the pricier side, but I enjoyed the meals and the restaurant had a really nice vibe. I would definitely go back again.

     

    Price: Spend around 300 per person Summary: D.O.C has great Italian food and a wonderful settings. It’s on the pricier side but food is with quality ingredients. Tiramisu is a must!

     

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  • Friday night meet up with an old friend from down south, along with my regular dining partner, as the weather was pleasant we all decided to meet up at the rooftop terrace of Dream Brewers at 758 Julu Lu, and what an experience it became.

    As it’s a brewhouse, started with a selection of their 330ml IPA’s, and ordered a glass of Laughing Bird Chardonnay for our friend, whilst going over the menu.

    We chose the following dishes:

    Pork Trotters Carpaccio: Deboned pig’s trotter which is pressed into a cylindrical shape, or forced back into the skin and poached, somewhat like a terrine. Must say this was the most standout out dish of the entire meal, and something not seen before in Shanghai.

    Deep-Fried Crab Cake: That in effect was oversized and over deep-fried, extremely salty dry crab cake, why not make then smaller and offer, say three and more delicate and pan-fry instead.

    Baked Snails Pie: The snails must have been Greek in origin, as they were a little shy and were somewhat spartan in number, meaning there weren’t that many to be found under the rectangular puff pastry case, which had green drips everywhere.

    Char-Grilled Ibrico Pork Rib: which I believe should have been spelt as Ibérico!! this dish was dry and tough.

    Hand-Cut French Fries: more like machine cut and frozen jobbies.

    Roasted Red Beetroot:  nice touch with the pumpkin seeds, but just dam salty.

    Baked Creamy Spinach: nothing creamy about this dish.

    All three of the side orders were extremely small portions both the Roasted Red Beetroot and Baked Creamy Spinach were over seasoned, well just too much salt.

    All of the dishes were decorated in green, or some form of green drizzle…Was this an attack underway of Soylent Green.

    Must say that the selection of beers on offer were interesting, slightly different from the plethora of recently opened brewpubs around Shanghai.

    The Laughing Bird Chardonnay:  a merge pour for the price.  I looked up the description of what the wine should have been, as taken from their website: This fresh Australian white has a ripe lemon hue with green apple and lemon rind aromas. Ripe peach and melon flavours mingle with a richly textured creaminess on the palate, leading to a fresh finish, the wine smelled like cheap nail varnish remover, my guest left most of it.

    I understand the main restaurant is on the floor below, which results in a disconnect with what is prepared upstairs on the terrace grill area, lengthy wait times for dishes, the waiters were mostly sullen no coordination, the foreign chap who was orchestrating the grill, avec baseball cap, was not conducting too well.

    I can put up, to a degree with children running around a restaurant as this is Asia, where parents have very little control or just don’t care, but to allow a poodle to run around a restaurant is off-putting and where I draw the line, and no it was not a guide dog, or to be more PC an “All-Seeing Eye Dog” what were they thinking, both the owners and the establishment for allowing this.

    As the night wore on, despite sitting directly opposite the bar, it was as if we were in a blind spot, cluttered by dirty plates, our glasses empty and with the pumping up of the music Gangnam style was becoming deafening, we decided to call it a night and pay, sorry we don’t take credit cards, only WeChat / Alipay, fortunately, I had enough of the readies, to pay in cash.

    I enjoyed myself in the company of two lovely ladies, it was Friday night after all, but I ask myself why I bother trying these new places that everyone raves about through months of social media froth, upon reflection I wished I had stayed at home and entertained there instead.

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  • Months after Shake Shack opened its first location in Xintaindi, I finally decided to go. I was one of the victims for the fake Shake Shack delivery, so I was very excited to try out this time around. It is safe to say that Shake Shack is still up to the hype with people lining up for a seat. After a good 20 minutes, I finally had my burger and seat to dig in.


    I went with the classic Shackburger. The beef was impressively tender and juicy with the standard lettuce, tomato and cheese, while the bread was soft and wet. The famous Crinkle Fries was crispy and came with a good portion, but I found it a bit blend with no salt on top.
    Unlike the fake lemon tea at most fast food chain, it was great and refreshing. I’m not a big fan of milkshake but its vanilla milkshake was powerful with strong vanilla flavor, and it will probably give you the sugar high afterwards.

    The place was crowded but pretty comfortable and clean. I like its modern design and they also have an automatic hand washer next to the self-serving area, which we all need. The service was great and staffs were attentive and were constantly helping people to find a seat. I can see why people are in love with Shake Shack as it’s definitely above most burger chains. The second location is going to open in Jing’an and I’m expecting a long line for that too.

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  • Mokkos 2 in Jing'an is the second iteration of the original Mokkos nearby, a welcoming bar specializing in Japanese shochu run by some very nice owners from Yunnan. I prefer this one, just because it feels a bit more spacious while still keeping that cozy atmosphere and a couple semi-private rooms for groups. It’s laidback, good for a date or a chill drink if you’re looking for a bar with a bit of an offbeat flavor. Soundtrack is pretty much exclusively reggae, which ends up being actually pretty perfect.  

    Shochu is a kind of distilled Japanese spirit usually made from things like sweet potato and clocking in at around 25% ABV. It’s crisp and clean, with a kind of light, earthy flavor. The selection can be kind of intimidating, but if you’re curious and aren’t shy about talking to the bar staff they’ll recommend you something. I like to start with a straight glass of whatever they recommend and follow it up with this soda lemon cocktail thing that they do. They’ve got Japanese draft beer on deck too if you’re feeling a bit more conservative.  

    In all, it’s a place anyone that considers themselves a Level 2 barfly or someone with an affinity for interesting drinks and good vibes should check out. For many that go, it ends up becoming a favorite.

     

    Price: RMB 40 – RMB 60 per drink

    Summary: Hidden gem of a Japanese shochu bar in Jing’an with friendly staff, reggae on the stereo and a huge selection of Japanese spirits. Great atmosphere, nice drinks, something a little bit different.

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SMARTREVIEWS

SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.

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    A China expat since 2011, David moved to Shanghai for work in 2014. So far, his quest for memorable food has taken him to 22 different Chinese provinces and territories. When not actively hunting for delicious morsels around town, he is a director at a clean energy strategy consulting firm in Shanghai.
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    Suzy is originally from Wales, and loves cooking and dining out, especially for vegan and vegetarian food. She has an ever-lengthening Food Bucket List which often inspires her travels.
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